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What I Want Doctors to Remember This National Birth Defect Prevention Month

Growing up I heard the word “defect” all of the time. It was often associated with my medical condition. When doctors would go down my long list of medical conditions, they would list all the defects I was born with. As I got older, the word “defect” and “deformed” became a part of my subconscious vocabulary. Even though I knew I had a deformity and was born with a defect, I began to associate myself with “being defective.” I unknowingly took on a mindset that all there was to me, was my medical condition.

Nevertheless, as I grew older, I realized I needed to change my language and begin to separate myself from my diagnosis. I began to intentionally change my language — using the word “difference” instead. I never realized the havoc one word could wreak on my self-esteem and image until I switched my vocabulary. How could a single like “defect” word have such a negative impact?

The month of January is National Birth Defect Prevention month,  and I want us to remember the power of words, especially in the medical community. Although there are technical reasons why certain words are important, these terminologies don’t have to be translated into our social context. For me, I use the word “difference” over “defect” because although I was born with a defect, it does not mean I am defective. For too long a time, society has used the two interchangeably.

Many of us have carried the assumption that if you have a condition or disability, then that is who you are. This type of thinking is not only limiting, but it is so from the truth. We are not our disabilities, and we are not just our abilities. I’m continuing to learn through education, self-empowerment and discovering my identity through G-d, that although I have a medical defect, it does not make me defective or lesser than.

As we charter on in the month of January, let’s continue to change our language and how we relate to the people around us. Let’s continue to dig deeper into valuable conversations about those in this community who often feel bound by their conditions and diagnosis. I am one in 33, and even though I was born with a defect, it does not make me defective. I choose to embrace my differences, and hope others will too.